Monthly Archives: July 2006

Happy Birthday, Grandma!

Laura Bohls (née Hosfeld) was born this day, the thirty-first of July, in nineteen-eleven. The census of 1920 lists her as eight-year old Laura C., for Catherine, I believe, one of two children, her younger brother Alfred being the other, of Alfred H. and Catherine Hosfeld. Looks like they lived at 1454 Ontario Street in Toledo OH.

I can’t find any record of such an address in the Lucas County Auditor’s Real Estate Information System. There’s a 1452 next door to a 1456 North Ontario Street, but the records say they were both built in the early 1890s. Where was 1454 then? Where is it now?

I know the house pictured above, a house she helped to build in 1936. That’s the only house I knew for my Grandma and Grandpa. That’s the house where we watched the Moon landing in 1969.

The census records say that Alfred Sr. was born in Ohio, whereas Catherine was born in Illinois. Says Alfred’s father and mother were both born in Germany and spoke German. Catherine’s father was born in England but spoke French, and her mother was born in Ireland and spoke English.

Isn’t it amazing what you can just go find on the Internets these days?

Grandma had ten children. Lordy, that’s a lot of kids. My father was her second born, after first-born Virgil Jr.

She passed away on April 16, 1999. She would have been ninety-five today.

Happy Birthday, Grandma!

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

We get the miracle of the loaves & fishes today.

First up is a mighty interesting reading from Second Kings. A man brings to Elisha twenty barley loaves, and Elisha says to give it to the people to eat, despite the man’s protests that it’s not nearly enough for the hundred people. But Elisha insists that, and indeed there is, enough and then some. There’s some left over after they have eaten.

This of course prefigures pretty much the same scene in the Gospel. Or, actually, Gospels. We hear today from St. John, but it’s in all four Gospels, apparently the only miracle recounted in all four. (It also seems to be in St. Mark and St. Matthew twice each.) And even though it’s Year B, with lots of readings from St. Mark. And despite the fact that this miracle is in St. Mark. And despite the fact that we kinda left off last week, with Christ moved with pity by the crowd, a sheep without a shepherd, in St. Mark, and then this miracle is recounted immediately thereafter. But, still, we switch to St. John.

I’ve mentioned before what a big fan I am of the readings when they can tie Old Testament to New Testament. This is a classic example. Although St. Paul is really off message in his epistle. No loaves, no fishes. Although he specifically counsels humility, patience, and gentleness, traits I’ve been sorely lacking recently. Paul wags his finger a lot, but oh sometimes I sure do need it.

Deacon Rice reads the Gospel from the high pulpit, so we know that he’s going to give the homily as well. And it’s a satisfying sort of one for me, with the idea that we produce quite enough food in this world to feed everyone, (thirty-five hundred calories a day for everyone, says he). Problem of course is distribution, with getting it to those who are in need. It’s not the fault of this beautiful bounty that the Lord provides for us, it’s our system, or systems, that are at fault. It’s us.

And this of course makes me think of the collapse of the Doha round this week. All due to the agricultural subsidies. And the US blames the EU and the EU blames the US. And in the meantime people in the developing world are starving, subsistence farmers can’t even subsist. Although some quarters are cheering the collapse, thinking that the rich countries will game the system no matter what, that despite the stated purpose of making things fairer for developing countries, things would just get worse under Doha. I plead ignorance as usual as to the subtleties of trade policy, but note that it’s of course a truism that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The rich will always win, will always run the table, and maybe even steal your wallet while you’re not looking.

International Crisis Group

One of the authors of the article referenced in the earlier post is Gareth Evans, who is President and Chief Executive of International Crisis Group. ICG was founded in the early nineties mostly by Mort Abramowitz, the President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and Mark Malloch Brown, the Vice President for External Affairs at the World Bank. Joining them almost immediately was Fred Cuny.

Fred is widely hailed as being instrumental in providing potable water to Sarajevo during the seige, when he masterminded and effected the building of a purification plant in a mountainside tunnel. Sadly, Fred didn’t live to see any of the things that ICG would go on to do. He disappeared in Chechnya in April 1995.

I met Fred once, had dinner with him at Weather Lea, as he was a friend of the Baldwins. He was a giant of a man, bigger than life. I’m sorry to say though that I was in a terrible mood that day, and I didn’t appreciate him or his work nearly enough. It was only after he disappeared that I began to learn more about him.

Heard way back that they were making a movie about Fred. Harrison Ford was supposed to play him, although he looked nothing like him.

Dubious Zero-Sum Choice

Excellent article in Slate today, in the War Stories department, Rice’s Fallacy. Interestingly, the sub-headline in the article is “What if Israel can’t win militarily?” whereas at the top of the browser window the page is titled “Why Israel can’t win militarily.”

I’d rather that the headline and (possibly) sub-headline not be so confrontational. Or so snide maybe. The arguments within speak so much more eloquently, so devastatingly true, that any such snarkiness only serves to undermine them, to undermine the authors’ argument. Not undermine so much in and of themselves, but rather provide ammunition to those who would disagree.

The most devastatingly damning graf, emphasis mine:

But, the United States says, stopping violence is not enough unless we deal with what the administration calls “root causes.” Indeed. Yet it posits a dubious zero-sum choice: Either we tend to those causes now, while violence flares, or we never will. Surely there is no reason why the administration, applying its considerable power, could not mobilize international energy to address these underlying problems once a cease-fire has been secured—no reason, of course, other than that it has shown no such appetite for diplomacy in the six years preceding the crisis. Just as there was no reason to wait for violence to break out before tackling root causes, there is no reason to wait for root causes to be tackled before ending violence.

Indeed indeed.

Not Just Us

Okay, but what about the rest of the world?

I said earlier that I don’t see that we can or will or should just call up Israel and tell them to stop what they’re doing and expect them to stop what they’re doing. I said that we don’t necessarily have the clout nor yet even the moral standing to do such a thing. But, thinking more about it, what if say the whole world were to tell Israel that it was acting disproportionately, that it needed to stop doing something? That’d be something out of the UN, of course. And that’s now where I’m thinking I’m starting to see a problem.

Most recently the Security Council overwhelmingly passed a draft resolution calling for Israel to cease its military offensive in Gaza. In other words, representatives of the whole world telling Israel to knock it off. But we, the United States, of course vetoed the resolution. Or, in other words, the whole world was trying to tell Israel to do something, trying to send them a message anyway. But the U.S. had the power and the will to block that.

Although I am not unmindful of the rabble from the right, yelling Oil for Food and 3379 and other such inanities, declaring the United Nations morally bankrupt and a perversion of democracy and all sorts of other vicious things. But of course we send Ambassador Bolton there anyway. Secretary Rice spoke yesterday of how “we” passed Resolution 1559 and how Syria has responsibilities under it. And any cease-fire deal we eventually endorse in Lebanon will naturally involve a multinational peacekeeping force via the UN.

Pool or Pond

Don’t know much about the case, but apparently one Andrea Yates was re-tried and this time found not guilty of murdering her children.

I don’t follow the stories generally, but I can’t escape from them altogether. Seems to me that the narratives that really grip the nation’s tabloid sensibility are (1) pretty young white woman in peril and (2) mother murders her children. Many more examples of the former. This Andrea Yates being the latter of course.

Suffering from a mental illness myself, having lived with clinical depression all of my adult life, I have sympathy for Ms. Yates. I have more sympathy for the poor children, without question. It’s remarkably painful even just to read the simple declarative from the story in the Post: Yates drowned 6-month-old Mary, 2-year-old Luke, 3-year-old Paul, 5-year-old John and 7-year-old Noah in their Houston-area home in June 2001. Oh, those poor beautiful children!

But they are lost to us, and we are left with Ms. Yates. And what to make of her? I again must admit knowing almost nothing about her and the case. But I do find it slightly remarkable that she has been found not guilty.

It reminds me of course of John Hinckley, another one found not guilty by reason of insanity. And how they howled of the injustice of it then. I won’t be surprised by any howls now. They’ll say how permissive a society we have become. They’ll say how we don’t hold anyone responsible for their actions anymore. Yadda yadda yadda.

Meanwhile, Ms. Yates by a guilty plea would spend the rest of her life behind bars, and, clearly suffering from some type of psychosis, would be further held in some special facility for the mentally ill. Prison and hospital. Won’t be much different now, either. Hospital and prison.

Dog Happy Hour

I hook up with Gordon after work, taking the Blue Line to King Street then walking to meet him at Dave’s comic shop. We then head down to the Holiday Inn, where we meet up with Babs and Ally at the dog happy hour that they have every Tuesday and Thursday. Yup. People, dogs, and booze.

We go over to Books A Million. Ranan isn’t there, but an old Crownee is name of Connie. Gordon had asked me if I remembered him, and I couldn’t place anybody. But then I immediately remembered him when I saw him. In the back room they have pictures of the employees up on a display on one wall, each one like on a sort of bookmark like tag. Everybody’s has their start date. Ranan’s has 1983, with an additional note, something like, “Yes, 1983” for those who can’t quite believe it. He’s probably got co-workers who weren’t even born before 1983.

We stop and go through McDonalds drive-thru for Ally, then take her food with us to Hard Times. I’m amazed, but seems like they’re pretty used to serving adults while the kids eat something else.

Back at Chez Scott we look at old photo albums. I help Ally with some origami. Babs serves tasty cherries. Gordon pops in a VHS tape of us playing charades at a New Year’s party sometime in the late eighties. Gordon notes that he still had a beautiful head of hair back then. I have a pony tail, and I mug shamelessly for the camera.

The Guns of July

Israel continues to fight on two fronts. With as hot & troubled as things are in the Middle East, some wise folks are wondering if maybe this is what the summer of 1914 felt like, before everybody got involved. Not me so much, oddly. After some major jitteriness last week, I’ve calmed down quite a bit. I don’t pay too much attention to it.

CPC is terribly upset by it, though. I think maybe he’s reacting the way that I reacted to Israel’s first invasion of Lebanon, back in 1982, back when I paid a lot more attention to such things. I remember when Israel actually had to admonish its troops, tell them quite emphatically that burying Palestinians alive with backhoes was strictly frowned upon. I remember that the U.S. sent troops to Beirut, then we turned tail & bolted after the barracks bombing (likely perpetrated by Hezbollah). But then U.S. warships fired artillery shells willy-nilly into Beirut.

So the U.S. lobbing 16-inch shells into Beirut in 1983, that upset me. The U.S. bombing Baghdad in 1991, that upset me. But the rest of the world didn’t agree with me. They didn’t seem to care. This was United Nations sanctioned bombing. We had a big old parade when it was all over. And so I figured I must just be weird.

So now Israel is bombing Beirut. And the President shrugs his shoulders and says that Hezbollah needs to knock that shit off. And we can just veto anything anybody comes up with in the Security Council. And so then how much outrage do I have left? Not much, apparently.

But, I do have to say, that when CPC directly blames the U.S., our President and our Secretary of State, I actually can’t agree with him. Sure, we have a lot more influence over Israel than we do over Syria, say. Or Iran. Or Hezbollah. But Israel is not our puppet state; they are quite independent actors. CPC seems to think that we can just tell Israel to stop, and they’ll stop. But I think that even apart from the fact that the President doesn’t want to tell Israel to stop, Israel wouldn’t stop even if he did tell them.

Now, it’s also true that we do give Israel tons o’ money, which may you think earn us a little influence, a little say as to how that money is spent. Or may not earn us that. Depends on how you look at the relationship, I guess. And I’d just as soon prefer that the U.S. not tell other people how to go about their business. Something about not removing the mote in one’s neighbor’s eye until we attend the beam in our own. I think maybe it’s a little gauche to be criticizing Israel’s invasion of Lebanon while we’re still occupying Iraq.

So, of course, I’ll go on pretending that I know what’s best, that I can tell you what’s right and wrong, that I can tell Israel what they should or shouldn’t do. Nobody’s going to listen to me anyway. And I got big old railroad ties in my eyes.


This afternoon I make a totally rocking router table fence. I use these plans from the Stots website, although I don’t own the dust sucker accessory. I’ll figure something out on my own for hooking up the shop vac.

I start with a piece of 3/4″ MDF that’s been hanging around the shop for a while. Not sure what I made with it originally, but it started out life as a two-foot by four-foot handy panel from Home Depot, and it’s an L-shaped piece now, two feet on each long side. I’m able to cut out the fence and the base pieces at 24″ long, not quite the 31 1/2″ that the plans call for having, but close enough for me. And I have to slim them just a tad, maybe half an inch short of the width in the plans. And for the fence faces I use a leftover piece of laminate-covered 1/2″ MDF. (Leftover from what, I don’t remember, until Dawn reminds me that it’s from Ikea, that we used the rest of it on the kitchen cabinets.) It’s only about a foot long, short of the 17 3/8″ in the plans, but still now proportional since the base and fence itself are shorter.

So my fence is altogether a bit smaller than it could be, but it’s still a real good size. And the laminated faces are totally sweet. The other major change I make is to reverse the fasteners holding the faces to the fence. The plans say to use screws coming through from the back into t-nuts in the faces. I use instead bolts counterbored through the faces then going through the fence and held on with wingnuts.

Mostly the project calls for drilling. A lot of drilling. Pilot holes for the screws holding the fence and base and braces together. Then big 2″ holes in the fence (in lieu of machining slots for the faces to slide side to side). Then the holes that the bolts go through on either side, counterboring them on the front of the faces. At a certain point it dawns on me how much easier all this drilling is with the drill press, how much of a nightmare it could have been.

I finish and set up the whole router table assembly, with the table and the insert and now the new fence. Oh so nice. But I don’t have anything to actually rout today. Next weekend I’ll use it to joint the balusters, to remove the saw marks before sanding. I can joint now because of the independently sliding fence faces, where I can shim the outfeed side to act as a kind of jointer. I had meant to order some proper shims from Rockler, but I have some old playing cards that’ll probably work just as well. Maybe even better since those shims are sized for Rockler’s own fence.

Now I am thinking of souping it up with proper knobs rather than the wingnuts, but, hey, let’s not get too crazy, huh?

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

What with the choir being gone, and so much to do around the house, we go again to 8:30 a.m. Mass. Leading us is Father Caulfield, with Deacon Work assisting him. I see Heather in the procession as one of the eucharistic ministers.

The readings are all shepherds, all the time, scattering and reassembling the flock. First is from Jeremiah. “Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture, says the Lord … I myself will gather the remnant of my flock from all the lands to which I have driven them and bring them back to their meadow.” St. Paul tells us, “In Christ Jesus you who once were far off have become near by the blood of Christ.” And especially Christ the Good Shepherd, from the Gospel reading:

When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd,
his heart was moved with pity for them,
for they were like sheep without a shepherd;
and he began to teach them many things.

Now, oddly enough, all this makes me think of President Bush, who famously declared to be “a uniter, not a divider.” And I had never ever noticed the evangelical overtones to that statement before, but there it is. Here it is.

It makes me think of another semi-famous instance in 2000 where then-candidate Governor Bush in his stump speech would say, “Don’t be taking a speck out of your neighbor’s eye when you got a log in your own.” Then Washington reporter (and now food critic) for the New York Times, Frank Bruni, reported that Bush seemed to have invented a new twist on the old adage about the pot calling the kettle black. Governor Bush of course was loosely quoting Jesus, from the Gospel of St. Matthew.

I don’t know if President Bush actually believed it at the time, about being a uniter, not a divider. More lately he has declared that he is the decider. But whatever, he has rather become a most polarizing figure. But the message that he presented way back when, was both politically soothing, as well as a Biblical reference, that some people got I suppose, but I didn’t.

Or, as better put elsewhere, here’s how a profile of Mike Gerson in the New Yorker explains it.

Gerson says that he is flummoxed by the debate over religiosity in the White House. “There’s an idea that we are constantly trying to sneak into the President’s speeches religious language, code words, that only our supporters understand,” he said. “But they are code words only if you don’t know them, and most people know them.”

Gerson then goes on to cite the Frank Bruni example, saying with obvious relish, “No one at the Times seemed to know that these were the words of the Sermon on the Mount.”

(And I have to admit that I know the reference from first reading it in Stephen King, in The Stand, where Frannie for some reason ponders the line from St. Matthew, wondering about motes and beams, as they’re called in the King James. She free associates, coming up with Abe Beame, once the mayor of New York. Hearing it in church ever nowadays, or reading it in St. Matthew, or hearing Mike Gerson talk about it, I still instantly think about Frannie and Abe Beame.)

With all the shepherds, the Responsorial Psalm is, of course, from the Twenty-Third.

The processional hymn is There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy. The first time I glance at the title on the music leaflet, I think it’s “There’s a Wildness in God’s Mercy.” Whatever could that mean? Or, it’s better than “There’s a Weirdness in God’s Mercy,” I suppose.

Then, later, I can’t for the life of me get out a line, without screwing up, of the recessional hymn, Praise to the Lord, the Almighty. It’s in 3/4 time (or maybe 6/8, with snatches of 3/8?) with syllable count of 14 14 478. Crazy. Dawn has no trouble with it, though.


Around our house we call them spindles, actually. But they are properly balusters. The OED gives us for baluster:

3. (Usually in pl.) The upright posts or rails which support the handrail, and guard the side, of a staircase; often applied to the whole structure of uprights and handrail. Now more usually BANISTER(S, q.v.

and for banister says

Usually in pl.: Slender upright posts or rails, esp. those guarding the side of a staircase, and supporting the handrail; often applied to the whole structure of uprights and handrail.

I love having access to the OED, by the way. Take my advice: get yourself an Arlington VA library card.

I always thought that banister meant the railing itself, was just a synonym therefor. But apparently banister means either the whole structure, or just the thingies that hold up the railing, also called baluster, which can also mean the whole thing.

I’ve been thinking of metonymy and synecdoche lately, for other reasons, but let’s leave that for another day.

The whole point is, whatever the things are called, today I’ve been making them. Remember that I had bought rough-cut 6/4 eastern white pine from the lumber yard. And then I had dressed the wood with belt and random orbit sanders. Well, today I finally cut the planks into them things what hold up the railing on the stairs.

Actually, they don’t really hold up the railing. Railings are anchored quite firmly on their own. Balusters are there, required by code even, four inches on center, as a safety barrier, to keep small children from toppling down into oblivion from under the railings.

Dawn’s been staining and varnishing the newel posts, so I can’t attach the railings to same until the varnish dries. I’ve got the Kreg Rocket that I’m going to try to use to attach the railings, with 2 1/2″ coarse thread pocket screws. But, meantime, today I cut the balusters.

It’s my first major use of the new saw, too. Oh, sure, I used it to crosscut the railings, with miter and bevel. But here I just set the fence to the thickness of the boards and rip away. I’ve attached the shop vac as dust collection, plugging the saw and vac both into the same power strip, and using the reset button on the power strip as the power button, so I’m able to turn on and off the saw and the shop vac at the same time.

The power strip reset button trips a couple times, when the saw starts to bog down during a cut. The first time it happens I think I’ve tripped a circuit breaker, and I go trudging inside the house to reset it. But none of the breakers is tripped, and I finally figure out that it’s just the power strip itself. It’s much handier though resetting the power strip each time, rather than trekking into the house.

Is fun, ripping the balusters. And the shop vac collects a huge amount of sawdust. Much better than the grass-killing piles of dust that I used to leave on the lawn with the Delta saw. I get nineteen and two-thirds balusters from the planks. Good thing, since I need nineteen.

6.3 Demo

A field trip today, leaving the office about 11:30 a.m., returning about 3:00 p.m. Off to Tysons Corner VA, to TMA Resources Inc. hq, for a demo of an upgrade to our TIMSS software.

I wasn’t sure exactly how I was going to handle working in the morning and then getting out to the burbs. I didn’t want to park in the garage in the building for fifteen bucks. I suppose it would have been reimburse-able. But I don’t know. I just wouldn’t have been comfortable with that. But I didn’t want to have to schlepp all the way back home after only a couple of hours to get the car.

I talked to Sasha, who was going as well, and who also lives in the city. She doesn’t drive, especially. So she was catching a ride with Jen, who drives in every day anyway. So I asked Jen if I could tag along too, and she said okay.

We have a funny moment when we get down to the garage, and we’re just standing there. I imagine we’re waiting for the right person to come along for Jen to grab to go get her car. But Jen explains that she doesn’t even have to talk to anyone. They just see her and they know her and they go get her car. This same moment had happened recently with her brother, who finally after standing and chatting a few minutes had snapped and demanded when Jen was going to get someone to bring up her car.

Jen’s car arrives and it’s a pretty cool Celica convertible. We ride with the top up, however. We discuss the scene in Bridget Jones’s Diary where Renée Zellweger’s hair is a big afro mess after a ride in a convertible. Jen had spoken before about having had some water leaking in and filling up the car during all the rain we’ve had recently, but evidently that’s all been repaired as I can detect no remnants of such. Jen’s got London Calling in the CD player, so we listen to that on the way. Jen and Sasha talk about Project Runway, about which I really haven’t got a clue. Also, Kathy Griffin’s soon-to-be ex-husband.

There’s lunch waiting for us at TMAR when we arrive, about ten minutes late. We weren’t sure if they were going to feed us or not. Along with Sameer, there’s Tony, April, and Parag. And Matt has arrived separately. So we’ve got a good-sized meeting.

The demo is mostly presentation, of good stuff surely, but no hands-on. I don’t get a chance to see if some bugs have been fixed. I’ve brought along a list with me to do this, but there’s no time. We go overtime as it is with the agenda that we’ve got.

I ride back to town with Matt, and he tells me the sad story of how much he dislikes his Passat. Seems there was an unfortunate software issue, that’s recently been fixed, but the couple of years of problems has generated such ill-will that he’ll never make peace with the car.

Goodbye to Kate

My dashing young protege, one Kate Conrad, is leaving ASH. We have a going-away happy hour for her. Happily, it’s not at Rumours, for once. It’s at one of Kate’s favoriate bars, the Big Hunt. It’s one of my favorite bars as well.

We leave, a large throng of us, right at five, for the long trek over to Connecticut Avenue. I’m excited so I lead the way and am the first through the door. Sadly, we had planned to be out on the deck upstairs out back, in the tree house as Kate calls it, but they’ve got it closed on account of the heat. So we stay inside, in the upstairs room next to the bar with the pool table.

My camera won’t focus in the dim light, so I make Kate give me her camera. And I take posed portraits of Kate with everyone. I’m no good at candids. And I’m not happy with my camera anymore, not after it won’t work, you know? I need to find out what kind Kate’s is and where she got it.

I’m going to miss that Kate, but I’m glad she’s off pursuing other opportunities, doing better things than the admin stuff she was doing at ASH. She’s off to be a teacher. A high school teacher in PG County. English and Speech and Theater.

One Small Step for Man, One Giant Leap for Mankind

I used to be a huge space geek. Really huge. Big fan of the American space program from Alan Shepard through even Skylab 3 or, heck, let’s throw in Apollo-Soyuz.

Mostly though it was the Apollo program. Men on the Moon. Men on the Moon! As in the Onion headline from July 21, 1969 — Holy Shit: Man Walks on Fucking Moon.

I worked back in the early nineties for the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, but I wasn’t yet space geek boy then. A shame, really. I even met Buzz Aldrin at the annual meeting in 1991. I shook his hand, but I was utterly speechless.

It was a couple of years later, while I was working at the help desk for Crown Books. We were in Landover MD but we got calls from stores all over the country. California stores closed as late as ten p.m. Pacific time, so we worked for an hour after that, which was two a.m. Eastern. Some late nights, many of them pretty boring, is what the point is.

But it was a bookstore company, so there were books around. We had under this one unused desk a box of books, returns or something, that we used for testing inventory and scan wands and whatever. One of the books was a paperback copy of Carrying the Fire by Mike Collins, command module pilot on Apollo 11. I started reading it one night for no good reason and just caught the bug right there.

I went on to read a ton of stuff, A Man on the Moon by Andrew Chaikin and Apollo by Charles Murray and Catherine Bly Cox being the best, but hell I even found me and read an old beat up copy of Jim Irwin’s autobiography from a used bookstore in Atlanta. I had a pretty decent space library for a while, maybe a couple dozen books.

All that’s long gone now, except for a little vague knowledge of astronomy that can still pop into my mind on a cold winter night, and I can help you find Aldeberan, although sadly I no longer know which in Ursa Major is Merak, Alcor, Mizar, or Dubhe.

On July 20, 1969, I remember being at my grandparents’ house, watching the events in snowy black and white on the TV. It must have been much later than I was used to being awake, after eleven p.m. local time, and I was all of five years old. I don’t remember watching much, or for very long. Mostly I remember running back and forth between the living room and what we called the rumpus room. But I know that I watched some of the space stuff.

Neil Armstrong screwed up his famous words, when he stepped off the ladder and on to the surface. He meant to say that it was a small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind. Makes much more sense that way. The way he actually said it always confused me as a kid.

I love the exploration aspect of our space programs. I can take or leave the science of it, although I suppose that’s the best excuse for it really. I don’t care that we beat the Soviets to the Moon. (And then they said that they weren’t really trying, and don’t you believe them.) None of that rah rah patriotism for me. Mike Collins in his book talks about how he travelled the world after coming back and everywhere he went people would talk about how “we,” as in humans, went to the Moon. Not just America, but all of us.

I don’t think I’ll live long enough to see us get to Mars. I love those little rovers they send up there, though. That’ll do for now.

Happy Moon Landing Day, everybody.

He’s No Horatio

I finish reading Master and Commander, the first of Patrick O’Brien’s twenty-odd books, and I’m sorry to say that I’m not thrilled.

I’ve discussed with Gordon many times the phenomenon of expectations. The more you’re looking forward to something, the more likely it is to be disappointing. The more you want to like something, the less you end up liking it.

Such it was with Jack Aubrey. I was bummed that I had finished reading all the Hornblower books, and so I was excited that there was this other series about naval warfare during the wars with Napoleon, with even more books, just sitting there fat and ripe and waiting to be read. And I understood that the O’Brien books were written in more of the vernacular of the times, with the nautical arcana left mostly unexplained. That sounded cool.

So then the actual book was a bit disappointing. Not that much action, relatively speaking. Or, maybe, not as much action, not to a Hornblower-esque degree anyway. And throwing Dr. Maturin onboard, and having to have things explained to him, wasn’t much leaving arcana unexplained, turns out.

And Jack Aubrey was by turns likable and unlikable. No Horatio, anyway.

But then in some ways Horatio is an insufferable prig. And but so then in other ways he’s redeemed a whole lot by his clinical depression, though. Jack Aubrey, on the other hand, is more of a pig. And where he’s supposed to be redeemed by his love of music, well, to me, not so much. Although then other times Horatio is a rascal.

Jack Aubrey is really more a realistic product of his time, seemingly a real character of the times, rather than how Horatio sometimes seems a product of our contemporary times, but thrust back into the early nineteenth century. The biggest example of all this is the two characters’ views of the prize system, where Jack is realistically enthusiastic, whereas Horatio views it as barbaric. (It was barbaric, of course. But that’s just how we see it now, looking back.)

But I guess I’ll read the next Aubrey-Maturin, Post Captain, and see how it goes. I’m hoping I like it more, which means I’ll probably be disappointed.

The President Says Shit

The big news of course shouldn’t be so much what President Bush said or how he said it. It’s that he said anything. Here were the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom talking candidly for a couple of minutes. It’s that little voyeuristic insight that’s really the news. Most everything else is just chaff.

Especially that the President used the barnyard epithet. Big deal. Chaff.

But then what he and the Prime Minister said and how they said it is fairly interesting. First, there’s, “See the irony is what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it’s over.” I’m not exactly sure what the irony is here, though. Or who “they” are. Later the President mentions Secretary-General Annan calling Syrian President Assad to “make something happen.” So likely he means the United Nations, through the Secretary-General, when he says what “they” need to get Syria to do.

I think maybe his point is more that Hezbollah is a client of Syria, though, that Syria has influence over Hezbollah, rather than anyone having much influence over Syria. Certainly we don’t have a lot of influence over Syria. We don’t have much dialog with them, having recalled our ambassador in early 2005. Maybe that’s why President Bush wants Secretary-General Annan to talk to President Assad.

But then why would Syria want to reign in Hezbollah? Hey, it’d be nice if they did, but I can’t seem to think of a single reason why they’d want to do it. Prime Minister Blair seems to understand this. He says, “What does he think? He thinks if Lebanon turns out fine, if he gets a solution in Israel and Palestine, Iraq goes in the right way, he’s had it. That’s what this whole things about. It’s the same with Iran.”

(Different sources transcribe this a little differently. This is what it sounds like to me.)

I think by “he” the Prime Minister means President Assad. And this is all part of the model democracy that we are trying to establish in Iraq. The Prime Minister is saying that if Lebanese democracy flowers, if Israel and Palestine make peace, if Iraq turns out to be that model democracy, then President Assad and his autocratic regime are in trouble. So therefore why would President Assad reign in Hezbollah?

For the past week I’ve been trying to figure out what’s going on and, more importantly, what’s going to happen. And the powers that be all make bland statements on this or that. But here, just for a minute, we get to see what they’re thinking.

That’s pretty cool.

I wish the President wouldn’t talk with his mouth full. But, hey, who doesn’t, at least every so often, right?

Palestine and Lebanon

I don’t know much, but I do want to note here that, in direct contrast to my comments earlier about the Lebanese government “controlling” (or not controlling) Hezbollah, it’s actually true that Hezbollah is part of the government. They control twenty five seats in the legislature. They control two of the ministries. It’s wrong actually to talk about them as separate from Lebanon.

Sort of like Hamas, by the way.

What happens in a democracy when the people elect parties like Hamas and Hezbollah? Is that right? Aren’t therefore the latest eruptions the will of the people?

Or maybe it’s like Iraq, and me. I didn’t support the invasion. But it still happened.

And now what?

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Last week remember was the concept of a prophet at home and abroad. Today’s first reading is from Amos, where Amos is away from his home of Tekoa in Judah, prophesying in faraway Bethel in Israel. Ah, but no honor for him there, alas. The priest of Bethel kicks him out, sending him back to Judah, ordering him “never again prophesy in Bethel.” Amos replies that he was just minding his own business, not a prophet, when the Lord told him to go prophesy to the people of Israel. Amos is apparently the Rodney Dangerfield of prophets, getting no respect anywhere.

Amos says that he was a shepherd (minding his own business by minding his own sheep, you might say) and, more interesting, a dresser of sycamores. Whatever can that mean? He dresses up trees? Dresses them in like fancy costumes? Disguises them maybe?

A little research reveals a rather more mundane answer. The King James translates it as “a gatherer of sycamore fruit.”

The Gospel from St. Mark is the Lord sending the twelve out two by two and giving them authority over unclean spirits. Remember again, this time the concept of apostolic succession. Here’s where that all begins.

Again something jumps out at me, like maybe a tautology, where Jesus, when telling them to travel from town to town, says, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave.” It sounds funny at first. I mean, no matter what, if you stay someplace, you stay there until you leave. You can’t not stay somewhere until you leave.

But I guess it’s all part of travelling light, as the Lord tells them to do. He tells them that they can take a walking stick, but not food or money. Sandals are okay, but not a second tunic. I guess he means that if they find a place to stay, they are to stay there and preach locally. When they’ve worn out their welcome, when it’s time to go, don’t just find another house down the block. Leave the town and go to the next. As in, “Wherever [the city or town or village happens to be when] you enter a house, stay there [in that house] until you leave [that city or town or village].”

We have a guest homilist, a priest whose name I don’t understand. In fact, he’s French, but he grew up in South America, and now is a missionary in Hong Kong, so I don’t especially understand anything he says, between his accent(s) and the sound system. Certainly not his name. And I don’t understand it when Father Hurley says it either.

Big Old Drywall Panel from the Home Depot

We buy a four foot by eight foot sheet of half inch drywall at the Home Depot. We’re making some small repairs around the house, so we don’t actually need all that drywall, but they don’t sell anything smaller. They sell handy panels (that’s what they call them) of plywood and hardboard and MDF in four by four and two by four foot sizes. But not drywall. We need one piece that’s about four and a quarter inches by twelve and three quarters, and another piece twenty four and a half inches long by about seven or eight inches high.

So we need about two hundred and fifty square inches, but we buy over four thousand square inches. But it’s like that at Home Depot a lot of the time. The big sheet is about nine bucks. We can handle that. We can afford to pay that for the forty eight cents worth that we need.

And besides, I get home and misread the drywall square on the left side, forgetting to account for the two inches that is the width of the straight edge. I end up with a six inch wide piece when I meant to cut an eight inch wide piece. So I have to cut again.

So good thing I have all that extra, huh?

Bastille Day

Apparently there were only seven prisoners being held in the Bastille when the mob stormed it. They, the mob, were more interested in the munitions stored there. Not that they weren’t thinking about the prisoners at all, mind you. They did release them after all. Just wasn’t on the top of their list.

Wilsons Sue Libby, Cheney, Rove

Funny, after seeing Ambassador Wilson chatting nonchalantly on his cell phone yesterday, there’s news today about him. Case 1:06-cv-01258-JDB filed today in the US District Court here in DC. Maybe had I talked to him yesterday I could’ve gotten a scoop? Blew my big chance, didn’t I?

I wonder a little, not especially seriously, about the Wilsons’ motivations behind the suit. I have no other information, but I personally believe that it’s somewhat peevish. The suit itself seeks relief including but not limited to compensatory damages, exemplary and punitive damages, and attorney’s fees and costs, but I imagine the best part of it all for them is the hassle for and political damage to the defendants.

It’s the best part of it all to me as well. Let’s toast to it and wish it well, all the success, say as much success as Jones v. Clinton.



Okay, so is it just me, or does anyone else think all hell is breaking loose lately? There’s North Korea. I’ve mentioned Mumbai. Now it’s Israel going into Lebanon.

I hate hate hate war.

Although I don’t know what else Israel’s supposed to do, if Lebanon can’t or won’t control Hezbollah. (I suppose that goes for India too, if Pakistan can’t or won’t control Lashkar-e-Toiba. Or if Lebanon does control Hezbollah but uses them as their proxy, likewise Pakistan and Lashkar-e-Toiba.) And but I was very much not a fan of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon back in 1982, when they invaded to root out and destroy the PLO. How well did that turn out?

Like with the Infitada(s), Israel has the muscle, if it wants to use it, but if faces a whole lotta people.

Hezbollah was founded to fight that invasion, too, in 1982, by the way. So if Israel destroys Hezbollah now, isn’t somebody else just going to replace them?

DC Celebrity Spotting

Just saw Joe Wilson.

Ambassador Wilson has fabulous hair.

He was talking on his cell phone, and I was walking back to the office with Kate, my dashing young protege. Otherwise I probably would’ve pestered him.


Sameer is late for our meeting this morning. He’s got friends and relatives in Mumbai, and news starts to break right around time of our meeting about the subway bombings there. Phone calls to and from are down or jammed or something. He can’t get hold of anybody and they can’t get hold of him.

Reaction in the western press is somewhat muted, or much less anyway compared to the London bombings last year, which bombings these do in fact resemble. I generally think that this muted reaction is due more to our understandings of the tensions between Hindus and Muslims in India, between India and Pakistan, and the dispute over Kashmir, rather than simply that we are more pained by the deaths of white people.

Lashkar-e-Toiba and SIMI later both deny responsibility for the bombings, although people generally still think Lashkar-e-Toiba did it, likely with the help of Pakistan.

Salim Ahmed Hamdan, Petitioner v. Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense, et al.

In all other excitement, I’ve neglected to mention how pleased I was with the Hamdan ruling. Check it out:

[W]e conclude that the military commission convened to try Hamdan lacks power to proceed because its structure and procedures violate both the UCMJ and the Geneva Conventions.

On the one hand, the Supreme Court merely requires that the executive not create its own rules but instead enforce the laws of the legislature. But that’s actually something of a big deal with this current executive, who declares presidential power to be nothing less than plenary.

Thankfully the Court disagrees. But then they go a step even further, and they say that Common Article 3 applies. Oh, yeah, baby. You go, Supremes.

And so now the administration says that they’ll work with Congress to craft some actual, you know, laws and stuff. And that until some other individual determination is made, prisoners will be accorded prisoner of war status under Geneva.

How about that?

Sunday Shopping

Go all the way to Springfield to the Woodcraft store to buy a Kreg Pocket Hole Jig, specifically the Rocket Jig. But they’re out of stock.

They’ve got the Mini Jig Kit, but while that’s got the step drill bit, collar, and hex wrench, it’s only got the single-hole jig, and lacks the clamp. They’ve also got the K3 Master System and Super Kit, but those are $149 and $199, respectively. I’m not going to be doing production work, thank goodness. I need the Rocket Jig.

Man says they’ll have more on Monday, but it’s tough to get back here, especially on a Monday night. So later I end up ordering one on Amazon. For five bucks cheaper, too.

Next door to Woodcraft there’s a South Asian market. We buy some ghee and also some cumin seeds.

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Good contrast between the reading from Ezekiel and the Gospel from St. Mark. In the first reading, the Lord commands Ezekiel to go to the Israelites and to tell ’em to shape up, noting however that they may or may not do so. But either way “they shall know that a prophet has been among them.” In the Gospel reading, Jesus goes back home to his native place, to his synagogue, and preaches there, to much grumbling. They know him there, but they know him too well, so they don’t know that there’s a prophet among them. He’s just one of them, they say, he’s no prophet.

“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house,” Jesus says. Kind of a double negative, but what he’s saying is that a prophet does have honor, has honor everywhere, except for the one place, the place where they know him. He’s preaching to guys he went to school with, who learned the same things from the same rabbis. Who is he, they ask, to preach to them now?

Interesting also is what folks say when they’re identifying Jesus among themselves. “Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” We Catholics believe in the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Virgin, so therefore she didn’t (couldn’t) have any other children, ergo then that Jesus didn’t have any siblings. What do we make of this then?

I suppose then we would explain this passage by going back to the original Greek, noting that whatever words we now translate as brothers and sisters are or were then also synonymous with cousins. Or something like that. I go to the online NAB at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and that is indeed what they say: “[I]n Semitic usage, the terms “brother,” “sister” are applied not only to children of the same parents, but to nephews, nieces, cousins, half-brothers, and half-sisters.”

There’s also, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, apocryphal writings that have influenced Catholic tradition saying that Jospeph was a widower, with children, at the time of his betrothment to Mary. Those could be the kids referenced here. (That Joseph was an older guy, and maybe had by then passed on, also can help explain why Christ’s mother is around later in the Gospels, but his (earthly) father isn’t.)

Whatever. I’m not so hung up about all of this. And, lucky for me, we Catholics don’t especially have to be. The non-scriptural thing that’s like heavy duty required for us is the Assumption, that Mary the Mother of God didn’t just die and that was that, but she was corporeally assumed into heaven. But that’s just way cool on its own. Who wouldn’t want to believe that?

Something else interesting that the USCCB annotations point out about today’s Gospel passage is that this is the only Gospel reference to Jesus being a carpenter. This same moment as recounted in St. Matthew reads not “carpenter” but “carpenter’s son.”

The processional hymn is God Has Spoken By His Prophets, the tune of which, something called Rustington, is fairly in my register. I can sing it. And I love the beginning of the second half of each verse, the F-sharp as the second note. I don’t know. It just sounds so serious, so dramatic. The recessional hymn is God, We Praise You, tune of Nettleton, with a daunting key signature of sharps at C and E. But I like the tune a lot and I do surprisingly okay, but Dawn doesn’t like it.

Sanding Dust

Dawn has to dust the bedroom, but I’ve yet to sand the walls after patching after Roberto & Jose. Said sanding is going to produce a lot of dust, so I need to do it before Dawn dusts anything else. So I do our bedroom. What an enormous mess.

I’m smart enough to wear eye protection, which in my case now also includes ear protection, thanks to my cool Radians. I don’t know why, but the shop vac is painfully loud to me. So the ear plugs help a lot. The shop vac is moderately successful at keeping the dust down to a minimum, as long as I hold the hose with one hand while I sand with the other. Like a dope, though, I don’t wear any sort of dust mask, even after Dawn reminds me at one point. Later I look in the mirror and see that all my nose hairs are coated white. Wonder how much dust makes it into my lungs.

In the bedroom I can still see an impression here and there of the mesh tape after everything is all smooth. I should have done three coats like you’re supposed to do. I thought I could get away with two.

Kenneth L. Lay

I was in a meeting on Wednesday morning with my boss Matt. It was a pretty informal meeting I guess, because at one point he got up from the table where we were talking and went over to his desk to check his phone or computer or something. Anyway, he saw on his computer the news, and he immediately mentioned it to me. Ken Lay had died.

It’s an odd sort of anticlimax to a long saga. I worked at Arthur Andersen from 1995 into 2002, during the whole Enron fiasco. Enron itself went belly up on its own, but Andersen was put out of business by a stupid prosecution by the Justice Department. Of course I blame President Bush, and then-Attorney General John Ashcroft. And then-Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson. But at the time we understood that the decision to indict was made by the head of the Criminal Division, then-Assistant Attorney General Michael Chertoff.

We are now, of course, as innocent as Oliver North, thanks to the wise heads at the Supreme Court, who threw out the conviction in a unanimous decision. Of course, all 80,000 of us were long since out of our jobs. Sure, most everybody was highly skilled and marketable and found employment elsewhere. I was with the tax division, and Deloitte & Touche bought a large part of the practice. About two-thousand of us went over there.

Still. What a waste.

from The Declaration of Independence

The bulk of the Declaration is a list of 27 grievances against the King. Here they are listed, with emphasis added to a choice few:

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

Thomas Jefferson

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

— Thomas Jefferson, The Declaration of Independence, 1776

Besides those of colour, figure, and hair, there are other physical distinctions proving a difference of race. They [blacks] have less hair on the face and body. They secrete less by the kidnies (sic), and more by the glands of the skin, which gives them a very strong and disagreeable odour … They are more ardent after their female: but love seems with them to be more an eager desire, than a tender delicate mixture of sentiment and sensation … Comparing them by their faculties of memory, reason, and imagination, it appears to me, that in memory they are equal to the whites; in reason much inferior, as I think one could scarcely be found capable of tracing and comprehending the investigations of Euclid; and that in imagination they are dull, tasteless, and anomalous.

— Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Viginia, pp. 264-266, 1781